Have you ever heard the phrase ‘pregnancy scrambles your brain’? Well, here’s how pregnancy-induced brain fog can turn the most intelligent of us into airheads!
During my pregnancy I often heard other mums and mums-to-be refer to something laughingly referred to as ‘baby brain’, ‘preggo brain’ or ‘scrambled brain’. It appeared that these terms referred to some type of memory loss during pregnancy but I, an apparently intelligent and level-headed woman, gave little thought to these passing remarks…..or, at least, I did until the day I found myself, six months pregnant, standing in the kitchen, mug in hand, staring at the kettle trying to remember how to make a cup of coffee!
Even as I write this feature I’m recoiling with the embarrassment of the memory. I mean, a cup of coffee? My eight-year-old daughter can make one for goodness sake! I stood at the bench in the kitchen. I had a mug. I had the kettle on, but, try as I might, I just couldn’t fathom the next step.
On that occasion I simply walked back into another room and involved myself in another task. I gave little further thought to this until the next day when I couldn’t find my car keys. I searched high and low and tried to retrace my steps. I’d come in from the car. I’d decided to tidy up the cups and plates; the remnants of an enjoyable coffee morning earlier that day with a friend. I’d gone into the kitchen, put the dishes into the sink and tidied up the coffee, sugar, mi……. I moved gingerly towards the fridge. I couldn’t have! Could I? I mean, who would do that?
I opened the fridge door.
Yip. There, among the butter, the milk and the yogurts sat – as bold as brass – my car keys.
And that was it. My brain was officially scrambled. My pregnancy had seemingly removed my brain cells one by one.
Thankfully, of course, once I had given birth and life had settled down again, my brain cells returned to their previously coherent, logical selves and my car keys were never to darken the fridge door again.
Why does pregnancy affect the brain in such a way?
First of all, of course, it’s important to state that there are many people, who believe that memory loss during pregnancy is simply a myth. Indeed, research carried out last year in Australia concluded that expectant mums needed to stop blaming their bump for memory lapses. The study of 1241 women both before and after having babies decided that preggy brain fog was simply a fallacy, created by our switching our attention to the baby rather than to ourselves.
However, I – and countless other women – can more than vouch for its very disconcerting existence.
I’ve lost count of the number of women, who have told me they’ve sat and stared at their Blackberry or laptop, unable to remember how to switch it on. One friend spent an agonising half hour meandering round a supermarket car park, unable to remember……no, not where she had parked her car, but what sort of a car she had been driving! To reinforce my point, I think I should state here that my friend has a PhD in social anthropology and flies around the world delivering lectures. And no, I’m not naming her! We’ve all done what Marian Keyes refers to as the ‘dance of the stolen car’, but my friend knew her car hadn’t been stolen. No, this was much worse. This was baby brain. There was no point in ringing 999. What was she to say? ‘Description of car madam?’ ‘Eh…..’
If you’re pregnant and have started to notice that you’re forgetting things, or find yourself standing at the top of the stairs, unable to remember why you came upstairs in the first place, then take heart and read on….
The good news is that pregnancy forgetfulness is very common – and completely normal. The key word to remember is ‘temporary’. No sooner will you have given birth than you’ll find your total recall has happily returned. (Bad news? You’re on the slippery slope to ‘senior moments’ but that’s a whole different feature!)
If you’re looking for a reason for the preggy fog brain then look no further than an old, familiar, ‘covers all excuses’ friend. Yip. It’s those fun-loving, mood-swinging, put-that-knife-down-now-please hormones!
From puberty to menopause, women and their hormones are sorry bedfellows.
Cry at Love Story? Emotional. Cry at Toy Story 3? Hormonal.
Nag your partner with good reason? Hormonal. Nag your partner for no reason? Hormonal.
Have no doubt about it. Pregnancy hormones love to have fun! Having pulled the contents of your stomach up through your oesophagus and into the great white telephone for the first few months of your pregnancy, your hormones are getting a little bored and are looking for something to do! So what do they do??? Party on down with your memory!
You can almost hear them, can’t you? ‘What will we do now lads?’ (They have to be boys, don’t they? Female hormones wouldn’t even THINK of trying this on). ‘Hey, she’s on her way up to the bath. Let’s make her carry the cat with her.’ (Great chortles ring out among hormones).
‘Oh, oh, she’s going upstairs to clean the lavatory. She thinks she’s lifting the bleach, but wait, wait, yes! Result! She’s taking the milk up!’ (Hormones are beside themselves with laughter).
You get the picture?
So, how do you deal with the Jeremy Beadle of the hormone world?
Well, first of all, cut down on the number of things you have to remember. Your brain cell volume actually decreases during the third trimester in particular, so make things easy on yourself. If you have something really important to remember, then WRITE IT DOWN! Leave notes in obvious places. Become the Queen of the Post-It Notes and decorate your home with them where appropriate.
Make sure your diet is balanced. A vitamin or mineral imbalance will cause forgetfulness or decreased memory capacity.
Get as much rest at you can. They don’t use sleep deprivation as a form of torture for nothing, you know! Plenty of shut-eye will ensure you have optimum memory and mental ability.
And lastly – and most importantly – laugh it off. Encourage everyone to have a sense of humour about the whole thing. So what if you leave your keys in the fridge?